What is an unmarked crosswalk?


At the corner of Schaumburg and Barrington Roads in Schaumburg, Illinois, sits an unmarked crosswalk. Can you see it? There are no pedestrian signals here, so follow the signals for cars. Good luck. 

I posted my “Can we cross Belmont Avenue?” story in full to EveryBlock to get some reactions from neighbors who would be familiar with that specific crossing. As I suspected, there would be confusion about what the laws in Illinois say about the required behaviors of drivers when they encounter people trying to cross the street.

From Active Transportation Alliance promotional materials (pdf), it says,

As of 2010, Illinois drivers must come to a complete stop for pedestrians in all crosswalks. Previous law required them to yield and stop when necessary.

So what constitutes a crosswalk? Does there have to be paint on the ground from curb to curb? The answer is simply no. The legal definition of a crosswalk in Illinois may be confusing on the first read, but it introduces the concept of the “unmarked crosswalk”. The same promotional materials from Active Transportation Alliance, a leading proponent of the law, HB43, say “a crosswalk is present whenever a sidewalk leads into the street”. There doesn’t even need to be a sidewalk on the opposite side of the street.

The law is defined in Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) 625 ILCS 5/1-113. Paragraph A essentially describes an unmarked crosswalk:

Sec. 1-113. Crosswalk.

(a) That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway, and in the absence of a sidewalk on one side of the highway, that part of the highway included within the extension of the lateral line of the existing sidewalk to the side of the highway without the sidewalk, with such extension forming a right angle to the centerline of the highway;

(b) Any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface placed in accordance with the provisions in the Manual adopted by the Department of Transportation as authorized in Section 11-301.
(Source: P.A. 83-831.)

Just for fun, here’s the least useful crosswalk I’ve seen in Chicago.


Read some research on the effects of marked and unmarked crosswalk, from 2005 on the Federal Highway Administration’s website (FHWA).

Updated September 5, 2012, to add the text of the Illinois state law defining marked and unmarked crosswalks.

14 thoughts on “What is an unmarked crosswalk?”

  1. The Illinois requirement for defining an unmarked crosswalk is bizarre, if a sidewalk must be present, leading into the street at an intersection.  Using that definition, it would be illegal for a pedestrian to cross at an intersection in a farming area, with no sidewalks in sight.  Ditto for some Chicago suburbs which don’t provide sidewalks at all: I regularly walk along Green Bay Road between Buckley & Scranton, in North Chicago/Lake Bluff where the majority of the road has no sidewalk or path on either side of the road, just grass and woods.  It would be interesting to determine if, in Chicago, an unmarked crosswalk exists midblock from alley corner to alley corner, or if alleys don’t count as intersections.

    1. We have some T intersections in Chicago where one or more possible crossing locations don’t have marked crosswalks.  I’m not sure about your alley to alley suggestion.

    2. Good questions. 

      I guess that there is more legislation than this about how to cross roads when intersections are miles apart and without intersections. 

      And I wonder if alleys are considered part of the “highway system” (even though we think of the Kennedy when we think of highways). Sidenote: All roads are called highways in state legislation. Alleys are not highways, but may have some reference in the “highway code”. 

    3. I think I have an answer for one of your questions. State law has a provision for people who want to cross the roadway at points other than marked and unmarked crosswalks.

      (625 ILCS 5/11-1003) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-1003)
      Sec. 11-1003. Crossing at other than crosswalks.
      (a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

      There are subsections b-e as well.

    1. “This long section of the street is designed to promote speed and prevent pedestrian crossing”. Who were those people? Dang. 

      Have you ever learned the history of Western Avenue and Gregory Street in Blue Island, Illinois? IDOT turned Western Avenue, a regular business-oriented, neighborhood street through the center of town, into a one-way highway. They rammed the opposite direction onto Gregory Street. Built new viaducts, basically slicing and dicing an historical suburban downtown. 

  2. Interesting.  I never knew “a crosswalk is present whenever a sidewalk leads into the street.”  I always thought motorists only had to stop at marked crosswalks.  I will adjust my driving habits accordingly (but not my walking habits, at least out here in the suburbs).

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